Buhari in the Newswatch
HIS METAMORPHOSIS HAS happened right before our eyes. Or has it? The former no-nonsense bespectacled ruler who has zero tolerance for indiscipline and corruption but who ruled sternly by decrees (Remember Decrees 2 and 4?), has now become a democrat who is ready to go through the traditionally frustrating democratic process to give us the Nigeria of his dreams.
This is the new Muhammadu Buhari, the former head of state who sacked the corrupt political leadership that ruled Nigeria from 1979 – 1983. Since his ouster by Ibrahim Babangida, the gap-toothed general who lives on the hills in Minna, Niger State, on August 27, 1985, Buhari has twice run to become Nigeria’s president, first in 2003 and then in 2007. He failed both times, although it is clear to all discerning Nigerians that those elections were a sham and were massively rigged particularly the 2007 elections. And Buhari spent 42 months appealing those two sham electoral verdicts. He doesn’t look so stern these days. He seems at peace with himself and still has a good looking young-face at 67. He is more banter friendly but remains his unpretentious self. No airs and graces about him and almost surprisingly, not too many hangers on around him either.
Could that be because he was expecting some journalists? Well, No. Those who know him say that is just the essence of the man. He’s a minimalist and his lifestyle contrasts sharply with the opulent lifestyles of some of Nigeria’s former rulers or even those in the leadership positions today in the government houses and the legislative houses throughout the country.
What has so dramatically turned this former dictator into a promising democrat? Go back to the collapse of the Soviet Union and you will have your answer. The collapse had a profound effect on his political thinking as a once bastion of autocracy was replaced by countries with budding democratic credentials. He is now an apostle of free and fair election himself and one who believes that the elections of 2011 would be a defining moment for the nation’s political life. He’s placing his hopes in Nigerians themselves, particularly the elite and he’s hoping they will wake from their slumber and fight for the enthronement of basic democratic norms in this country of 150 million people.
It will be a mistake to think that because Buhari has a more people friendly mien (the trademark of politicians) he is not very passionate about where this country should be headed.
Two things are critical to him, apart from all else – indiscipline and corruption. The two, to him, are interwoven. If a man is disciplined, he will know right from wrong and behave appropriately. In that wise a disciplined person knows corruption is not good and would not indulge in it. If a leader is, therefore, above board, disciplined and is incorruptible, he’s likely to have his countrymen and women look critically at themselves and behave appropriately. It sounds simple but it is not. There are a couple of Nigerian leaders who are still lauded for not being corrupt, former President Shehu Shagari being one of them. But unfortunately he presided over a corrupt government. Buhari is different. He simply abhors corruption and would gladly make example of corrupt officials in his government.
The treatment his government meted out to politicians of the 1979 – 1983 era is still fresh in our memory. Many were thrown in jail for long sentences. And it may be why there is trepidation among the elite and politicians that a man like Buhari may fling the prison gates wide open again for corrupt Nigerians if he becomes president in 2011. That itself won’t be a bad thing and ordinary Nigerians would probably jump for joy if it happens. But Buhari now knows his politics well and says he would not witch-hunt anyone and would not be doing unnecessary probes. But corrupt officials beware Buhari will have his fangs against the cankerworm.
Nigerians indeed would remember the War Against Indicipline, a cardinal programme of the Buhari-Idiagbon government. It forced us to queue and may be the traces of it that you can still see today came from that period. Nevertheless, he rubbed the media the wrong way and Decree 4 make him powerful media enemies. He’s comfortable with them now “(At least I need the media to report what I say)” but believes Nigerians should separate the dictates of that time from those of the democratic era that we now have.
Still, many see Buhari as an enigma. He is accused of being overtly religious, yet what Nigerians seem to forget is that he actually tried to get the state out of religion when he decided to limit the number of hajj pilgrims drastically while canvassing that it was a private affair which government should not be involved with.
Nevertheless, there is a new Buhari who wants Nigerians to see his democratic credentials, a man who promises to be the safe pair of hands that the nation needs in these turbulent times. He believes Nigeria needs a strong leader that can build strong institutions for the country. It is the way forward for him. Will he get the opportunity next year?
FREE AND FAIR ELECTION OR ANARCHY -- Buhari
I’M the Biggest Victim of Political Anarchy
Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state and Presidential aspirant in the 2011 general election, on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, speaks with Newswatch editorial team of Soji Akinrinade, editor-in chief, Dan Agbese, managing director, Newswatch Books Limited and Tobs Agbaegbu, senior associate editor, on his presidential aspiration, his new party and state of the Nigerian nation. Excerpts:
Newswatch: Many Nigerians who have been following your lifestyle and viewpoints since your days in the military are surprised that you ended up in politics. What actually motivated you to be in politics?
Buhari: You are right. I have been in politics since 2002. If I had earlier been asked if I would join politics, I would say no, but I found myself in a very difficult position socially when I came out of detention. You know I was detained up till the end of December 1988. So, when I came out, I sat at home and did a review of my life, my military career, from second lieutenant to general. I had occupied all those command and staff appointments as opportunities presented themselves. I found myself to be a governor in North Eastern State now made of six states, Yobe, Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa and Taraba. I was in petroleum, under Obasanjo as head of state, and then I was later a military head of state. So, after three years in detention, I went back home and tried to re-orientate myself and I found that what I hoped for this country, what I tried to do when I was in the military was to provide both physical and material security for this country. I found out that even in the much received democracy in the country, there was too much wastage. I found that we still had the problem of infrastructure, problem of social service and so on, and I know that I could make the difference. I said may be if I make enough noise, I could be heard. This is why I am in politics.
Newswatch: You are in it now. How have you found it, going by your experience in ANPP and now, your new party, the CNC. How has it been in the years past?
Buhari: Terrible. Absolutely. If you compare ours with, even in the last immediate elections in Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, Nigeria is a disappointment. We ought to do much better. I joined the ANPP, then known as APP in 2002. It was an effective and number two party in the country, having governors in nine states, in addition to many members of the National Assembly, local governments across the county, not only in the North where it had its base. It suddenly was reduced to having control of governments only in three states. When I was there, and contested election for the presidency in 2003, we ended challenging the election results, in court, for 30 months. In 2006, the party again gave me its ticket and you know what happened in the election. That is now history. And it is on record that both Nigeria NGOs and the international community observer teams and religious groups deployed over 30,000 people as members of observer teams. All of them agreed that the 2007 election was a non-election. And I said I was not going to court but my party insisted we must go to court because I participated on its ticket, and they were right. So, I said, okay, if we had to go to court, the party would make arrangement for its legal team while I also would take my own lawyers. And so, we went to court, but something surprising happened. While we were in court, the party, even without telling me goodbye, suddenly withdrew its case. If I had not got my own legal team, that would have been the end of the whole ting. And my major worry was not that the thing would be withdrawn from court, but the impression that would have been created that I had been settled. And Nigerians would believe it. I was very excited eventually when I found that constitutionally, I could continue with my case, since I had a legal team, and so I continued with the case in court for 20 months. You can now see that between 2003 and December 2008, I was in court for 50 months. And what ANPP did, in addition to withdrawing from the case, they decided to join PDP government in a so-called government of national unity. And the leadership of the party joined the government without going through the constitutional structures, the national working committee, which was supposed to be in charge of the party on a day to day basis. They also did not consult the party caucus, that comprised of the governors, the presidential candidate, the chairman of Board of Trustees and a few others. They also did not get consent of the highest authority of the party, the National Executive Committee, NEC. So, without going through these constitutional procedures, the leadership of the ANPP decided to withdraw the case, join the PDP government and put themselves there. This is political anarchy, and so I said I will have nothing to do with this, and so left the ANPP.
Newswatch: You have had two experiences in 2003 and 2007, which from your accounts did not give you confidence. What gives you the new confidence to run for presidency again in 2011?
Buhari: The state of the polity in the country and our state of development as a nation have no room for giving up for those who are genuinely concerned about this country. I just can’t give up because I am the biggest victim of political anarchy in this country. If I give up, I may die as a failure. This is why in February 2009, I sent a letter to all my supporters in the 36 states and Abuja, and sought their view on critical issues on the way forward. I said, in view of what ANPP did to me as their presidential candidate, whether I should remain the ANPP or join any other party other than PDP. It couldn’t have been PDP, because PDP is responsible for the political anarchy in the country now; or float a new party. We ended up floating a new party, Congress for Progressive Change. That is why I am where I am now. I am an aspirant now, not the presidential candidate.
Newswatch: How are you going to fund the new party, given, that money is needed in the contest against the other major parties that have already been fully entrenched in many states? Again, what kind of strength do you have that will enable you contend with the others?
Buhari: My strength is in my faith in this country and in the patriotism of Nigerians generally. Nigerians generally have come to accept and agree that it is better to remain as one country than get balkanised. Irrespective of the problem of underdevelopment, which is manifested in tribal crisis, religious crisis, indiscipline, corruption, Nigerians still feel that remaining as one country is still the best option for us. The issue of accepting that money talks is one issue that annoys me about Nigeria. Many people in the country believe so much in the Naira, weak as it is. Of recent, I started appealing to the elite to please go back to their constituencies and deliver them democratically. This is because, like I said, next year is pregnant and I would not want us to have an abortion. I have seen much trouble in the country, as a soldier between 1966 and 1970, three terrible years for this country. I wouldn’t want us to go through those experiences again. And if we are to stabilise the system through multi-party democracy which I firmly believe in, then the elite must do much better.
Newswatch: When you entered the presidential race in 2003, a lot of people became curious as to how you will fare, considering that a number of those in command of the situation politically in the country were those that were jailed or detained when you were the military head of state. What gives you the confidence that they will have short memories or forgive you and allow you to become president of this country?
Buhari: It is simple. The country did not, does not and will not belong to them alone. It belongs to all of us as Nigerians. And having been all that a Nigerian politicians wanted to be, my commitment to Nigeria gives me strength. I refuse to just sit and be a bystander. I won’t do it.
Newswatch: Looking back, would you think there are things you regret doing at that time?
Buhari: Unless you can prove to me that there was something very terrible that I did at that time which I ought to regret. Otherwise, I have nothing to regret. People kept accusing us, that we have removed a democratically elected government. Nobody said we abused the trust or that we put the treasury in our pocket as it was a personal thing. There were laws and the constitutions was very clear that people will have to be accountable, from local government to the presidency. And we couldn’t just sit and watch people stealing the country dry and do nothing about it. We were in a position to do something about it and we did. And don’t forget that we set up tribunals, almost in current geopolitical zones. And we provided documents for those who were responsible for the thefts, at various stages. And the Nigerian bar association of that time said what we were doing then was undemocratic, as if it means that those who stood before Nigerians, in different constituencies and said they will do something about infrastructure, give water, social services, free and qualitative education, etc and went back to steal the money, invest it outside the country and elsewhere did the correct thing. Gani Fawehinmi, may his soul rest in perfect peace, thought otherwise and agreed that unless we treated those crooks that way, nobody could get at them. He proceeded to send his lawyers to defend those who were being charged. It is alright that somebody came and gave them back the money they stole and the properties, but we made our point. And this was why I said I hope historians will be fair to us.
Newswatch: So, it is a metamorphosis we have been looking at now. The general who was there as military head of state is now turned to a democrat.
Buhari: I am now a multi-party system democrat who believes in free and fair election.
Newswatch: Has it ever occurred to you that a whole lot of people are afraid of you, that if you become the president, then the gates of the jail houses will open again and people will be marched in there?
Buhari: I am asking for free and fair elections. Those people are in the minority, but the majority of Nigerians want to see that the riches God gave this country in terms of human and material resources are utilized better to provide for all Nigerians, especially the weak. You know it more than I do. Look at power. Again, how much is spent on power. How many factories are closed? How many people are unemployed? How many services which we used to have are still being provided? We used to have Nigeria Airways, Nigeria Railways, Shipping Line. Where are they now? And look at what we have earned. This is not multi-party democracy. This is outright brigandage.
Newswatch: You have not answered the other angle of the question. Will you open the prison gates again?
Buhari: Why are you so worried about that? I know you are not going to be there, so don’t worry. Realistically, however, if you say you are going to investigate everything, you won’t do anything. There has been so much theft that it has been literarily turned into a culture. I think we just have to draw a line and try to do something immediately, especially in infrastructure and social services, education, health care, power, roads, even drinking water. Look at the story of cholera outbreak and the money we have earned since democracy resumed, and look at the state of the country’s infrastructure and services. The Nigerian elite ought to have looked after their country more than what they have done. We are too weak as elite to stop people in government from abusing trust.
Newswatch: The critical thing is how do we change that mindset? You have given us an idea about how the elite has failed in this country. If you look back, there was once WAI, War Against Indiscipline. If you look at the society today, there is so much indiscipline. So, how do you start all over again to give this country the kind of attitude that people will have and it will reflect on the way they behave. How do you change our mindset?
Buhari: I like one thing about Nigerians. Every Nigerian feels he is as good as Mr. President. If the people find out that Mr. President has a foreign account or that Mr. President is taking kick-back from contractors, whichever way, through the parties, or wherever, I assure you that every Nigerian from messenger to the governor of Central Bank will help themselves. But if Mr. President, by his actions proves that he is above board, and refuses to spare anybody, right from his office, I assure you that Nigerians will respond accordingly. I found out when I came out of detention, that there are people that accepted many things on their own, especially at the end of every month’s sanitation, and didn’t need to be supervised. They clearned their environment. They organised vehicles from the local government to pack the refuse on their own, without waiting for the man with the whip to flog them into line. People also voluntarily queued up at fuel stations. These are things I firmly believe, from experience that Nigerians can do. If you are an accountable person, immediately you become the president, Nigerians will sit up. But you can’t be more clever than Nigerians. You can do all the talking, all the public relations, if they find out that you are less honest than they expect you to be, everybody will do his own thing.
Newswatch: That presents us with a problem. If Nigerians are keen on a clean country why is it impossible for them to throw out a corrupt leader? Why do they prefer to join the corrupt?
Buhari: If you try to draw example from what happened in some developing countries, Ghana for example and what Rawlings did to stabilise Ghana, it is very interesting. It is our closest and best example. When he came and had to shoot so many people, he did. He stayed long in power, came back, wore civilian uniform as a politician and got two terms. The person in his party whom he wanted to replace him was rejected at the polls by Ghanaians. This is what Nigeria is capable of doing and I hope they will do it next year, without anybody getting shot. I think we have killed enough people. We have killed enough of ourselves between 1967 and 1970, not to talk about the kidnappings and assassinations. This country has to be secured and managed properly.
Newswatch: When you came in 1984, you came up with War Against Indiscipline. Your new party has not come up with a slogan, or started a public sensitization so that we can get something to say that the party is different from what we know. Don’t you think you need something like that?
Buhari: We do. Our motto is equity, peace and prosperity. Time is against us, more than anybody else. It took us 11 months, 17 days to get out registration in our hands. And now, luckily for us, INEC has sought and got an extension to April next year before elections can start, otherwise it would have been extremely difficult for CPC. But all the same, all that we are trying to do is to have our structures on ground. And if you can recall, I have contested twice, under ANPP in 2003 and 2007. There used to be what was call The Buhari Organisation, TBO, that was virtually in every state of the country. All they now need to do is to change the colour of their office and put the new flag, so for all intents and purposes, we are on ground, but we are trying to move up to ward level with this structure, so that when campaigns start proper, the people who have been there in The Buhari Organisation, in the ANPP, transform properly to campaign for the CPC. If you also recall, I have been to a few states, in the North and in the south, opened new offices and promoted the party. And with the extension, our second phase of the programme would be full blast from the upper week.
Newswatch: In 2006/2007, you released a very elaborate manifesto. Is it something that you are going to dust up this time around or you are going to have a new manifesto of yours?
Buhari: The manifesto will surely be dusted up and updated. I have identified four very serious issues now. There is the issue of security because we have to secure this country. People are talking glibly about investment. Who will come to invest in the country when the general manager will be taken away? And may be, money, as much as his investment in the country, requested by the kidnappers as ransom. Nobody will come to invest in the country, under such a situation. We are just joking. With the state of security in this country, nobody will bring in his money here. And we have millions of young men that ought to be working in factories and offices, manufacturing, learning. Corruption has eaten up what we have. There are also wastages. The infrastructure is down that ought to support the industries. Once you don’t have security, no power, no roads and once the school and health systems have collapsed, it is a very bad situation that we have found ourselves and that is a priority, that is what we are going to tell Nigerians. It is just to remind them because they already know. What is their experience? Even if you can afford to send your child to Ghana to be educated because standards have fallen in Nigeria or you send your child to Europe or America or South Africa, what does he do when he comes back, when the factories are closed, when you too are broke, when your bank is closed, what do you do? We are in a mess in this country and we all know it. This is why I am appealing to the elite to go back and deliver their constituencies. Let them go and tell their people to be better people. Tell them what to do and why. Next year will be the watershed.
Newswatch: Security is close to your heart. How would you tackle the problem, given that security involves much more than issues in the Niger Delta where there is an amnesty programme now, or robbery or kidnapping. What would you do?
Buhari: When Obama went to Ghana and refused to come to Nigeria, he said developing nations needed to have strong institutions, rather than strong personalities. I think he was partly right. In the case of Nigeria, you will need a strong person now to re-establish strong institutions. The way the judiciary is, the way armed forces are, if you wait for institutions to resuscitate or rehabilitate themselves, you may eventually not have a Nigeria. I think in the armed forces, with what is happening, the Nigerian Navy may not be equipped adequately, the Nigerian Air Force may not have the helicopters and the electronic gadgets to stop people from siphoning our crude oil and selling it on the high seas. When there is a court marshal and the leader of the military who is supposed to guard the country and the resources of the country is involved in stealing crude oil, you will have a major problem in your hand. But the situation is not hopeless. Nigerians will be ready to change if they identify a leadership that is honest and trustworthy, they will give their support. And having the experience of what happened to them before, of lost opportunities, I think next time around, they will be much more serious in defending a credible leadership under the system.
Newswatch: We have always had problems also in tackling our national problems. May be it has to do with the way we define the problems, say corruption. A lot see corruption as just stealing money. Isn’t it part of the problem, when we narrow the definition and perception of big problems?
Buhari: I have a different way of explaining it. Indiscipline is worse than corruption. If you may recall, Italy from the end of World War 11, to the last but one of their presidents, was having as many governments as the number of years between the end of the war and then. Almost every nine months. But at the same time, their economy and GDP were doing very well. It is partly explained by what Obama said in Ghana. Because they were strong established institutions, they allow politicians to go on changing themselves, every month if they want, but the institutions were holding the country. So they are progressing.
Let me tell you about Japan, from the mid 70s, up to early 90s, every government that was sacked in Japan was because the prime minister was caught taking a cheque somewhere, or the leader of the party messed up his position, but Japan remained the biggest economy, only second to the United States. This is because the society is disciplined, and the institutions are working. When the prime minister takes a cheque, they will find out. And the quickest thing for him will be to resign and a new government is formed. When the leader of the party takes a handout from a multi-national or so, he has to go. But in Nigeria, unfortunately for us, we got leaders that ruined the institutions. If you end up being the local government chairman or governor or president in Nigeria, the government treasury ends up in your pocket. You do no wrong. Your wife does no wrong. Your son cannot do wrong. Your favourite ministers can do no wrong. We want to change all that.
Newswatch: We wonder how you can cope with the situation in the country, given what people know about you. The culture of taking money for votes is so terribly engrained in the society. The opportunity of looting is immense, and the looters get protected by the corrupt system. In doing that, they fence out people like you, so how are you going to penetrate?
Buhari: I think that if Nigerians make two ends to meet, they become insensitive to what is happening to their society. When a bad situation stares them clearing in their faces, they fight back. Nigerians are in that bad state now. This collapse of infrastructure and social services is hitting the country very hard. The average elite cannot now properly educate his child. He cannot go to good hospitals, and he knows that the country can afford it. What rather is happening is that some people are stealing the country dry. People are now into kidnapping their fellow country men and women. People build houses worth millions of Naira but they cannot sleep in those houses. They rather sleep outside in hotels. People can no longer go home for Christmas. Some cannot go to Church with their families. This is the time for change. Having a disciplined and secure country is the answer to our problems. Nigerians are very concerned about the bad situation in the country, and that is why next year’s election will be different. You talked about the influence of money. They may take the money but I believe they will vote for people they believe in.
Newswatch: Why is it so difficult to handle the insecurity problem in the country? Is it because there is absence of relevant equipment and resources, or lack of personnel and political will?
Buhari: It’s not an issue of lack of right leadership or personnel. If you say that, you are blaming even from the recruit to a general. It’s the top. I am assuring you that if anybody who forms the next government is successful in raising a credible team, and the person is serious about it, things will begin to take shape. It is implementation that matters. All the laws and constitutional provisions for making things to work are available in the country. It is indiscipline that is the problem and indiscipline is a source of corruption itself. In Nigeria, everybody who is corrupt gets away with it. The man on top does not consider himself rich unless he gets a house in the United States, Europe or anywhere else. He or she knows that he is a thief but he is not ashamed of it because the society is tolerating it. I think that the situation in the country today, where there is the act of kidnapping, is another way of people saying that enough is enough. But it is a condemnable crime.
Newswatch: Do you think that capital punishment is the solution?
Buhari: When there was an upsurge of armed robbery after the civil way, people said it was because there were too many idle people and too many ex-soldiers who were trained to shoot. But it has continued. If people steal, either armed or pen robbers, the law of elimination can stop them from stealing. But I don’t think it is necessary. The most important thing is to ensure that a responsible team is raised, that can be firm, be in charge of administration, make sure that the commanders, especially the police, are well trained, experienced and not marred by corruption. People know what happens in the society. You cannot tamper with the money of the country, without being discovered. It doesn’t belong to an individual. You have to do it through a contractor or a consultant or directly, as some people are doing, because they know nobody will touch them. It’s not going to be easy but it’s possible because I believe that with the co-operation of all, Nigeria can be secured, because Nigerians are fed up. They wont have electricity, they wont see factories opened so that they can get job, they won’t sleep with both eyes closed. I can assure you that Nigerians are in a very agitated mood. That is why I said next year’s election will be a watershed.
Newswatch: I would like you to expatiate on this watershed issue.
Buhari: Well, Nigerians know that if they can’t improve the situation of the country now, then they are going into anarchy. Both the rich and the poor will be reduced to the same level. Everybody will be totally insecure. Not just because you are a governor, a minister or inspector general of police, or because you are keeping guard in your houses, or that you are driving around with siren and so on. In spite of all these, you will be insecure. The elite will be forced to sit up and work. The watershed is that we have the situation where the next step is total anarchy, and it will be very clear. When we start the election, we shall see. There were states where there were no elections in 2003 and 2007. In the South-West where there is so much political awareness, people were allowed to do what they like. They were allowed to go and vote, and they got through all the ceremony. People even sat down, wrote the results and went to the radio house to announce it. If you complain, they asked you to go to court. This time, people are saying they will not go to court like that. They will queue up to vote, and make sure that their votes count. Already, the president is singing the same song. It was done in Kano in 2003, in Bauchi and Lagos in 2007. And it came out without casualties because the elite in those states mobilised the people. Even the soldiers and policemen could not stop them, not to talk of thugs that were given marijuana or cutlasses, even those with weapons couldn’t do anything. But try to reflect on what happened in the Ekiti bye-election. In some constituencies and polling booths, there were more policemen than the voters. You know what happened. I think Nigerians cannot accept this type of thing again. This is what I believe is going to happen next year. Nigerians will ensure that their votes count and this is what will make the difference.
Newswatch: You have just returned from the National Council of States meeting, where you met with other former heads of state. Did you people discuss these problems and possibly proffer solutions?
Buhari: You want me to tell you what happened at the Council of States Meeting? The presidency is supposed to brief you after each meeting, so you wait for final briefing.
Newswatch: I am sure you are not the only one concerned about what is happening in the country.
Buhari: Of course. If I am the only one, I would not be in politics. I know many others are concerned, and that is why I stayed, to make even more noise.
Newswatch: So, your colleagues as former heads of state must share same concern, and the National Council of States offers the forum you need?
Buhari: At the council of state, we restrict ourselves to the agenda. And if there is any other business, people talk about it, if it is worrying them, but the main worry, as we are talking here, is about security and about the election. Personally, I am happy about a number of developments. When the president went to see Obama, he promised him that there would be a free and fair election. When he came back, he sacked Iwu. He accepted to have Jega even without knowing him. When he went to the United Nations, he also talked about free and fair election, so I am hopeful. It has given me a lot of confidence that although he is an aspirant like me, he has identified the danger of not having a free and fair election, and its effects on the image of Nigeria outside. And you asked whether the former heads of state are worried about security. Of course, we are all concerned. It is unimaginable that somebody like Gideon Orkar could muster the courage to excise some of us out of the country, to Niger. I thank God that he did not succeed because I would not like to live in the desert. It is in the interest of everybody that Nigeria is stabilised by stabilising the multi-party democracy system here.
Newswatch: We have heard similar promises of free and fair election in the past. What would convince you that this time around, it would be a different story, considering that the umpire is also a player.
Buhari: My confidence is because of what happened in the three states I told you, Kano, Bauchi and Lagos. Our campaign now is to mobilise to be like Kano, Bauchi or Lagos. We are not taking what Mr. President promised for granted. But if he, as a leader of this country, would go out and talk about free and fair election and then turn his back, and allow his party, the PDP, that is so notoriously incompetent, which is responsible for all the rigging, and thinks that he can do what his former predecessors did and get away with it, I think he will get the message.
Newswatch: You cited Bauchi, but I want to add Zamfara, in asking a question. Three times the people of Zamfara, voted ANPP and in 2007, the people of Bauchi, voted PDP after voting ANPP in two, previous elections. The governors of these two states have not taken the states into PDP without the consent of the people and there is no protest from anybody.
Buhari: Wait for the protest, from April next year. You will see the protest. And I expect you to know certain things in some places even more than me. In Zamfara, there was a problem between Sani, the former ANPP governor and former deputy governor on the ANPP platform before the party was taken to PDP. There have been clashes and lives were lost. In Bauchi, I can assure you, if you don’t know, that the governor is not having a good time.
Newswatch: How do you see the press now? Going back and remembering Decree 4, are you a friend of the press this time around.
Buhari: Why did you leave this question till the end of the interview. It would have dictated my temperament. I told you that I have accepted multi-party democracy. It is because of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. A super power in the 20th century just collapsed without a shot being fired. And out of that there are many republics now, and a lot of them are accepting multi-party democracy. So, this is what turned me into a democrat. And I insist that it must be a system that comes with free and fair election. That was why I went into ANPP then, but the party was vandalised, so, I had to leave it to join CPC whose motto is democracy and social justice. And that includes internal democracy.
Newswatch: So, you are a friend of the media now?
Buhari: Yes. At least, I need the media to report what I say.
Newswatch: May we confirm exactly, what your views are, on the issue of consensus candidate, being pursued by your fellow presidential aspirants from the North.
Buhari: It is a PDP affair. I have said often that the CPC has Nigeria as its constituency. In our arrangement, anybody from any part of the country can aspire to any position at any time. He only needs to work hard, mobilise the people and stand in for election within the party. After registering as a member of the party in your constituency, the CPC member will then work himself up the party, to whatever position he wants. I appeal to the elite to participate and not leave politics for the so-called career politicians.
Newswatch: You do not believe, like your colleagues, that it is the turn of the North.
Buhari: It’s a PDP affair. I am standing, not just because I am a Northerner, but because I am a Nigerian politician, with Nigeria as my constituency. I want to get votes from Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Ekiti, Oyo, Borno, Imo, Benue, and from all over Nigeria. I can’t limit myself to the North. Supposing the rest of the country says let him go and become premier of the North, how would I become president of Nigeria. And in any case, if I succeed and say I have one term and somebody strong from the south comes on my party platform to contest for the presidency. I will have to support him.
Newswatch: Do you have any arrangement with ACN?
Buhari: We are talking with them.
Newswatch: Will it work?
Buhari: Why not. We are trying to identify the type of relationship or alliance we should develop. We are discussing party to party. They are certainly an asset to us as a new party. The AC which is now ACN has more structures in many places. You can see why we treasure the alliance we are trying to forge with them.
Newswatch: Is it true that Bola Tinubu will team up with you as vice-presidential candidates?
Buhari: People will keep on flying the kite. Please be careful because you may lose your kite, as the harmattan is coming. We are discussing with ACN. We have set up groups now and we should allow them to conclude before we make policy pronouncements.
(Courtesy Newswatch Magazine of November 22, 2010, Pages 11 – 20)